Delayed tourism bill denying country revenue- MP

Delayed tourism bill denying country revenue- MP
Dr. Woda Odok Jeremiah (second right) and members of the EAC Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resource Committee during the oversight visit (photo credit: courtesy)

The members of the Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resource Committee in the East African Legislative Assembly have lamented the absence of a tourism bill saying it denies the country crucial income from natural resources. 

The group made the statement after touring various national game parks across the country.

The team also visited Lopit mountain in Eastern Equatoria State but were unable to land due to the flooding in the area.

In an interview with The City Review yesterday, one of the lawmakers representing South Sudan at EALA, Dr Woda Odok Jeremiah, said the delay of the tourism bill in the judiciary was derailing tourism activities in South Sudan.

Dr Woda said the country was clipped and could not organise income-generating tourism activities. 

She stressed the act would enable the country to process tourism visas to permit tourists to enter the country and explore the diverse cultures and topography of South Sudan.

According to the legislator, the move would open a floodgate of job opportunities and revenue for the government. 

“We don’t have a tourism agency which can oversee tourist needs and collect taxes from the airport but one thing we have realised is that we do not have an act, the bill is in the judiciary, it has a very good concept note with the policy in place. It needs a legal framework so that they can operate legally,” she stressed.

Opening avenues

Dr Woda said once tourism activities are legalised, the country would benefit from its natural resources as well as the processing of the EAC tourist visas.

“We have an EAC tourist visa which if a tourist is applying can get an entry visa into all the East African countries. 

“It is now operational in Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda. The other three countries are still processing it and South Sudan is one of them.”

The lawmaker appealed to the government to fight against poaching which she said the act was depleting the population of wild animals in the country especially those of rare species.

Dr Woda said most of the animals had migrated to the neighbouring countries because they have a well-established system that protects wild animals. 

“We as South Sudanese have six natural parks and we have very good historical sites: we have Deim Zubair in Wau which was for the slave trade and Dr John Garang Mausoleum in Juba. 

“We have diverse cultures which are also part of the attraction. We have to promote our people who do handcrafts; we have tasty food and the Nile,” she said.

Dr Woda said the ministry was in the process of ranking hotels. It added that the law has been passed to stop the wrangles between the hotel managers and the Juba City Council that claimed responsibility for the collection of taxes from the hotel owners.

She said that through the law, other complaints especially on the security personnel staying in hotels without paying will be ironed out.

Efforts

This comes after Minister of Tourism and Wildlife Conservation Rizik Zacharia Hassan attended the tourism expo in Arusha Tanzania on October 16. 

During the expo, the country signed a bilateral agreement with Tanzania on the capacity building of the tourism industry in the country.

Wildlife exploitation

According to media reports, South Sudan sees an estimated 1.2 million antelopes and gazelles migration annually covering approximately 95,000 square kilometres (37,000 square miles) said to be the size of Hungary.

However, wildlife has been subject to migration due to poaching and civil war. It is worth noting that rebels and armed poachers in remote areas exploit wildlife as the control over poaching is limited.

In 2019, the US government donated $7.6 million for a three-year program to protect wildlife and create economic opportunities in the Boma-Bandingilo landscape as well as ecotourism.

Wildlife Conservation Society also drafted legislation to aid in expanding protection to the migration between Boma and Bandingilo national parks.

MORE FROM NATIONAL